When Will We Give Working Class Creatives the Support They Deserve?

November 5, 2018

Our current curation of the arts is white, privileged and inaccessible.

Laura Footes, a 27-year-old artist currently exhibiting a solo show at Pushkin House, is rolling out her large-scale drawings – meticulously detailed interpretations of scenes from Mikhail Bulgakov’s Russian novel The Master And Margarita – across the floor of her large studio basement in oh-so-trendy Hackney, speaking about her love of modern languages and classic literature with a sharp and precise eloquence that wouldn’t sound out of place on the banks of Ascot.

On first impression, you would think Footes is London-born, highly cultured and equipped with a brilliant education, luxuriously pursuing her creative passion with the freedom afforded by upper-middle-class privilege. And yet Footes was born in Birmingham, down the road from Cadbury’s Bournville factory, on the border of an estate that led her cousins into drugs and prostitution. Her mother is a dinner lady, her father an electrician – both vote UKIP – and her voice has as many hours of work behind it as one of her pieces of art. She purposefully lost her Birmingham accent. “I did it to sound more professional, so people didn’t think I was stupid. Otherwise they just switch off. No one would know I came from a working-class background,” says Footes, who didn’t read her first book until English GCSE. She continued her education studying French and German at Birmingham, and, despite a passion for art, planned to become a lawyer: “I felt obliged by my socio-economic situation to focus on a subject that would give me employment and somewhere concrete.” Luckily, her boyfriend secretly sent an application to The Royal Drawing School on her behalf, and Footes was accepted on scholarship. She began her drawing year in 2013 and has worked professionally as an artist since.

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